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Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association Blog

MA Road Map to Net Zero: Q&A for NEHPBA Members with Governor Baker's Office

30 June 2020

Northeast HPBA is pleased to announce that on July 8th, 2020 at 3 p.m. we will be having a Zoom Q&A session with a member of Governor Baker's Administration to discuss the future of Energy in the Commonwealth. This Q&A session is specifically for NEHPBA and MCSG members! David Ismay, Undersecretary for Climate Change in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has committed one hour to meet with our membership to discuss the 2050 Roadmap. While this conversation will be focused on Massachusetts, we feel as though it should be of interest to all members, as what starts in MA often spreads throughout the northeast and the country. 

We anticipate a constructive conversation with Mr. Ismay. We will provide additional details closer to the event, including the Zoom link to participate and more information on how you will be able ask questions of Mr. Ismay regarding the 2050 Roadmap. Please RSVP here and let us know whether or not you will attend. We will send you the registration link as the event gets closer. 

We look forward to the information Mr. Ismay will provide us at the Q&A and hope you all will be able to join. 

Thank you,

Karen and Joel


Details on EPA’s Sell-Through Proposal

3 June 2020

EPA’s latest sell-through proposal was published in the Federal Register on May 22nd, starting a 45-day comment period with written comments due on July 6, 2020. HPBA issued a statement in response to the proposal on May 15th when a pre-publication draft was made public.

  • The proposal was made in response to the impact of COVID-19 closures on sales of Step 1 products as the May 15, 2020 deadline to sell Step 1 appliances approached. 
  • EPA is taking comments on allowing additional time to sell Step 1 appliance. 
  • In order to grant this additional sell-through period, EPA needs to be able to justify the need for additional time due to COVID-19 interruptions or closures on your ability to clear out Step 1 inventory between March 15, 2020 and May 15, 2020.

What is in the Proposal

  • If enacted, the new deadline would be Monday, November 30, 2020; it would not be legal to begin selling Step 1 products until the proposal is finalized, which could be months from now. 
  • It is currently illegal to sell, offer for sale, or transfer ownership of any Step 1 products in the United States. 
  • The only way this changes is if – after consideration of all testimony and public comments – EPA decides to publish a Final Rule in the Federal Register granting sell-through. 

Public Hearing Information

A public hearing (virtual) will be held on Monday, June 8th from 9:00 am EDT to 3:00 pm EDT. 

  • To sign up to speak at the hearing or register to listen in, visit EPA’s website
  • If you wish to provide testimony at the meeting, you must register by the end of the day on Thursday, June 4th. 
  • Testimony will be limited to five minutes per presenter. 
  •  In order for EPA to consider your testimony, it is important that you address the need for sell-through as a result of the closures or lost business due to COVID-19 in the two months leading up to May 15, 2020. 

HPBA Webinar on Testimony and Public Hearing

HPBA will hold a webinar on Thursday, June 4th at 2:00 pm EDT to provide information and answer questions for members who wish to testify at the public hearing. 

  • To register for the HPBA webinar, please click here

HPBA Webinar on Written Comments

HPBA will hold a second webinar on Wednesday, June 17th at 12:00 pm EDT for members who want to provide written comments, which is most important. 

  • Register for this second webinar here 

Source: HPBA Communications


Say "NO" to a Massachusetts Net Zero Building Code!

28 May 2020

Once again the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is holding a vote that could pass a State-Wide Net Zero stretch code (now called "EZ" stretch code for "Energy Zero"). Please sign and submit this letter to the chair of the BBRS and help stop this new building code from passing and having a dramatic effect across Massachusetts!

There is a lot of support for this from environmental advocates and this type of policy has already passed at the city level in Brookline, MA. This means it's even more important for our industry to stand up and make our opposition heard. 

Click the link and fill out the form to send an email opposing this effort. 


Step 2 Effective Date (May 15th) is Fast Approaching

12 May 2020

As we quickly approach the Step 2 effective date (May 15th), some businesses still have some Step 1 stoves left in their inventory. MAHPBA Board Members came up with an idea to address this, and HPBA reached out to the EPA and received official word that a simple donation program could be set-up with qualifying non-profit organizations. These approved non-profit organizations will manage the ownership and distribution of the stoves to identified homeowners in need. 

To participate in Stoves to Home, we ask that you complete a donation form before May 15th. 

For more information about the pre-approved non-profit organizations, how to donate products, FAQs, and to submit a donation form, please visit the Stoves to Homes page on the HPBA website

Please contact Shannon Good if you have any questions on the donation form, and Rachel Feinstein if you have any questions for HPBA. 


You Received a PPP Loan: Here are some tips for Massachusetts businesses

30 April 2020

Congratulations. You did it. You not only found a bank to accept your Paycheck Protection Program application, but the bank managed to get it to the U.S. Small Business Administration before the program ran out of funding. Lots of your peers are still scrambling to secure PPP financing. Not you. That money’s already in your bank account.

Now comes the hard part.

Out of necessity, the federal government created and opened up PPP in a hurry, before it had figured out exactly how the program would work. For that reason, you applied for PPP loans in a hurry. Many of your peers — maybe you — were ordered closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting that loan was a matter of survival. Now that you have the financing, you need to stick to the SBA’s rules, to ensure as much of the loan is forgiven as possible. But that’s not easy: The SBA is still clarifying the terms of forgiveness, even as you’re planning to comply with terms you signed weeks ago.

Experts say you might be in for a shock.

“I think many borrowers thought this was going to be fully forgivable, and I dare say, many of them are going to be surprised,” said Jim Browne, a Boston-based partner with the professional services firm Withum.

Just because the application process was a little fast and loose at the start doesn’t mean banks and the government won’t  be bigger sticklers going forward.

“On the back end, there’s going to be more diligence than on the front end, in terms of how this money was expended,” Browne said.

The Business Journal spoke with bankers, accountants, lawyers and entrepreneurs about what business owners should do to ensure they avoid run-ins with lenders and bureaucrats and keep the amount of the loan they need to pay back as small as possible. Here’s the advice they shared.

Don’t be afraid to hire back employees, even if the work’s not there

Many Massachusetts business owners are in a quandary. Their businesses are closed entirely, because they’re considered nonessential, or they’re operating in a much-diminished capacity because customers are stuck at home. They’ve laid off most (or all) of their employees, because the business just isn’t there. 

But under PPP rules, they must spend now 75% of the loan on payroll costs in the eight weeks after they receive the loan, if they want it to be forgiven. (The clock starts ticking as soon as the money hits their bank account.)

To reach the 75% threshold, they can hire back their one-time employees, but those workers may make more under the stimulus program’s enhanced unemployment benefits than they would on the job. And at the moment, there might be little to no work for employees to actually do.

Or they can forget about forgiveness, and treat the financing as a true loan rather than a grant. While the interest rate is only 1%, that may still be a big risk, given how much uncertainty there is around how long businesses will stay closed, and what revenue will look like once they reopen. The loan must be paid back in two years.

To avoid that risk, experts urge business owners to consider staffing back up, even if under normal circumstances they wouldn’t add to payroll.

“I’m advising them to bring them back as soon as they can, because obviously, the whole purpose of the program is to get people off unemployment,” said Thomas Petrocelli, a Wakefield accountant.

Employers should think creatively about how to use staffers. ThinkLite LLC, a Natick-based lighting company that received a PPP loan through Needham Bank, has employees taking online courses during work hours to learn new skills, or working on new research projects, Chief Operating Officer Danny Wadhwani said.

If most or all of the loan is not forgiven, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, given the low interest rate, accountants said. But owners should make that decision knowing the risks.

“If I have to pay that back at 1% over two years, I’m going to do that if it means we can stay alive,” said Joe Caligiuri, owner of Dedham training facility Stadium Performance, who plans to bring back all of his employees by July 1.

Keep careful track of everything

It’s essential that businesses document every penny they spend of the PPP money. The loan is supposed to be reserved for payroll expenses, as well as mortgage interest, rent and utility costs. If they send a rent check to their landlord, they should copy the check ahead of time and file it away. The same goes for electronic invoices.

Business owners might consider setting up a separate bank account for the loan to make the divide between the PPP money and other funds even clearer, though accountants say that’s not strictly necessary.

A good audit trail is important not just for accuracy’s sake, but for speed. Banks faced a glut of applications at the PPP’s kickoff. In a few weeks, they’ll face a glut of borrowers seeking sign-off that their loans are forgiven. Given how busy lenders will be, a misstep could mean significantly more time to achieve that sign-off.

“If you can put yourself in a position where everything is organized and they can easily see what you’ve done, it’s going to make the process so much smoother,” Nutter attorney Joshua French said. 

Keep your counselors on speed dial

Even nearly a month after the PPP launched, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how loan forgiveness will work. More guidance is expected, but the SBA’s previous attempts at clarification have left a lot of questions, according to experts.

With so much still up in the air, business owners should be in regular contact with their bankers, accountants and lawyers for any updates on the SBA’s thinking. Withum’s Browne recommends reaching out to them daily, or every other day.

At a minimum, businesses should check in with their bank a week or two before the PPP’s eight-week run time is up, according to Salem Five CEO Ping Yin Chai.

Remember, it’s about more than maintaining payroll

One thing that is certain: There’s more to achieving forgiveness than keeping the same headcount. If you cut pay for employees making less than $100,000 a year by more than 25%, that will hurt the amount of the loan that you can recover. 

It’s important to note that, when calculating change in headcount, a firm can compare its current staffing level to either its full-time equivalent headcount in the first two months in 2020, or the same metric for Feb. 15, 2019, to June 30, 2019. If a business had been in growth mode prior to the pandemic, and its headcount was low last year, that will help it out now.

Given the changes caused by the pandemic, employers might also consider whether it makes sense to hire employees with new skill sets, rather than re-hire only laid-off workers. ThinkLite, for instance, plans to hire web developers to bolster its ecommerce platform, since remote work will be more popular in a post-pandemic world, Wadhwani said.

It’s a weird time. But don’t get too weird.

The federal government got blowback when larger, publicly traded companies secured PPP loans before many small businesses did. Officials have indicated that going forward, they will be scrutinizing loan recipients more closely. So no, you shouldn’t go investing the loan money in the stock market, or paying dividends to shareholders.

French has a simple test for deciding whether an expenditure will draw “the quadruple P — the PPP police,” as he calls them. Ask yourself, would I be doing this right now if it wasn’t for the PPP? For instance, if you’re thinking about giving employees big bonuses just to hit that 75% payroll threshold — would you be handing out big bonuses this spring if not for the loan?

“If it’s not something you would have done normally, then I’d be nervous about doing it now,” French said.

bizjournals.com



Free Courses with CEUs For The Week April 27 – May 1, 2020

27 April 2020

Plan to join the CVC Success Group April 27 through May 1, 2020 as we continue our free virtual training presentations with CEUs for the coming week. Read on for the details of each class we will present live in the coming week. Our webinars are presented for the training of the industry workforces. 

Sales Training Monday, April 27, 2 PM EST

Join the Retail Guys Training with instructor Tim Reed presenting his program entitled “Win More Showroom Sales” a perfect class for anyone in sales or sales management, with a showroom or for those who operate without a showroom. So even if you don’t have a showroom the tactics Tim will share will be a benefit for you.

  • Learn how to properly start a relationship
  • Learn how to build trust with your customer
  • Learn how to set a budget expectation
  • Learn how to nurture the relationship to successful sales closure

To register for the free class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3389727684660026640. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to attend the session. 

Gas Training Wednesday, April 29, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be another gas training with industry veteran Bob Wise teaching live. You can ask your questions of Bob during the interactive presentation. This class will be one that will provide you answers on how to address field issues you may encounter during installations, service calls, and callbacks. 

  • Learn why gas components fail in the field
  • Learn the intricate details of how gas control systems operate
  • Learn new methods of troubleshooting field issues
  • Get answers to your callback issues

To join the class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2732416543831406096. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to join the class as it goes live at 2 PM Wednesday, April 29. 

Chimney Training Thursday, April 30, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be a course for anyone in the chimney industry. This will be presented by Jerry Isenhour & Tom Urban. In this class we will be sharing methods of how service technicians will communicate and do their jobs in the new next of the changes the market will require.  

  • Learn how to start the trust building and relationship nurturing using new processes and methods
  • Learn how to utilize technology in the coming days
  • Learn how to utilize virtual technology for reporting and for sales communication

To attend this class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1757912791063879184

Office Training Friday, May 1, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be a presentation of The History of Chimney Service In America. This class is a documentary of the chimney service industry and can relate how technology has changed the industry. An excellent class for any member of the chimney and hearth industries to increase their understanding of where we have been and where we are going.

  • Learn about the way chimney sweeping was in the 18th and 19 century and how chimney sweeping was part of many communities in the USA with Master Sweeps appointed by local government.
  • Learn how technology removed the chimney sweep from the landscape due to technology. 
  • Learn how an age old trade was revived due to a worldwide energy crisis

To join the class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5923380707056150544. You will receive a private link to join the class will be emailed directly to you.

All CVC Success Group live training is conducted using GoToWebinar, attendance at classes is tracked electronically, and CEUs are provided utilizing a code word system. Upon completion of a class, once you have submitted your code words and request for CEUs, CVC will prepare an attendance certificate that is sent to you and filed with the certifying agency you are certified by. 

CAN’T MAKE THE CLASS?

The CVC live classes are recorded and then stored in the CVC Base Camp library of courses joining the over 600 courses that are in the CVC Library. Want more information, simply click on www.cvcbasecamp.com or contact us at info@cvcsuccessgroup.com and we will forward your information on how to subscribe, with learner seats starting at $39.00 a month for 60 days, it is the most cost-effective online learning platform available. 

We are CVC Success Group, and we are here to assist industry members through these challenging times. If you have ideas on how we can provide this assistance, please reach out to us at info@cvcsuccessgroup.com

We are all in this together!


How Retailers Can Survive the COVID-19 Crisis

16 April 2020

I found this article and thought I would share it in light of the Webinar Series by Tim Reed, Creating a Digital Sales System, that Northeast HPBA is offering to our members. This excerpt is very insightful and talks about how retailers and small businesses must Adapt to Shifts in Digital Consumption. 

The part of the article that I found most valuable begins below:

COVID “has changed the way we internet” showing a significant shift in behavior from mobile to desktop. It's essential to ensure that all marketing messages are consistent between channels and optimized for both mobile and desktop.

More desktop time also means higher email open rates. It's a good time to continue emailing your customers as long as the messaging is considerate, provides real value, and is in touch with the current situation. Now is not the time to drive a sense of urgency around nonessential items.

Take a “crisis approach” to measurement. Create new, more frequent reporting based on the most up-to-date results you can derive. Comparing year-over-year or month-over-month results won't provide an accurate picture of digital marketing performance. Instead, build a day-over-day report beginning March 9. Watch higher-funnel metrics (e.g., engagement rates, click-through rates, brand search volume) at a channel and campaign level so that you can quickly evaluate what’s working and what's not.

Adjust your messaging to show care and respect for the customer’s constantly changing situation. More than ever, we need to be customer-first, and this means understanding what customers are going through right now. Retailers should be aware of the torrent of troubling headlines and support messaging that emphasizes an understanding of the customer’s current needs or mind-set. Review every piece of creative to ensure that it reflects that understanding.

It’s not just a matter of being careful in how you message around COVID — there's also an opportunity to extend a welcome hand by finding creative ways to bring your customer service experience to digital platforms. For example, many home décor brands are offering online interior design consultation as a way to stay connected to customers. Consider ways to shift in-person customer interactions and services online with a focus on providing value to best customers.

Take the Reigns

Above all, know that now is not the time to cut back arbitrarily. Never walk away from communicating with your best customers and best prospects. The retailers that act nimbly and decisively today can uncover unique opportunities to maintain those critical relationships in a time of rapid change and upheaval.

You can RSVP to our webinar series with Tim Reed here. Contact Karen@NEHPBA.org for access to the first webinar in the series. 

mytotalretail.com 

Read the full article here



COVID-19 Employer/Employee Questions Answered!

2 April 2020

There have been quite a few employee/employer questions. Some finally have some answers. For more click here

Answers to two common questions:

Q.  If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

Q.  If my employer closes my work-site on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No, not while your work-site is closed. If your employer closes your work-site, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your work-site for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.

For more information, contact NEHPBA, see our COVID-19 Updates page or see the HPBA site.


How to Get the Necessary Funds to Keep Your Business OPEN

27 March 2020

Many businesses have been asking what they can do to get the necessary funds they need to keep their businesses in operation. Many have also asked if they should "lay off" all of their employees, or if they have other potential options. 

The purpose of this post is to provide you with a few potential options in dealing with the above issues:

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans

As the coronavirus pandemic prompts disaster declarations at the state and county level, small businesses and not-for-profits in those areas can apply online for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

An SBA Section 7(b) Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides up to $2 million to help business with fewer than 500 employees pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid due to the loss of revenue caused by a declared disaster. The loans cannot be used to cover lost profits.

The interest rates for the loans are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profits. The SBA determines terms on a case-by-case basis, based on each borrower’s capacity for making monthly loan repayments. The maximum loan term is 30 years.

The loans also offer a one-year deferment on payments. This means that the first payment isn’t due until a year after the official date of the loan. However, interest starts accruing on the loan the moment the funds are disbursed. 

Please click this link to learn more and apply SBA Loan Application 

Employee Related Issues

Many clients have also asked what their options are with employees besides laying them off. The IRS is coming our with various tax credits to assist with the payment of workers impacted by the Corona Virus. 

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. We have been told that this page will be updated as new information is available. Please click this link to learn about these programs IRS Employee Wage Programs 

Looming Tax Return Deadlines

At this point in time the IRS has also extended the due date of all income tax returns, and tax payments due on April 15, 2020 until July 15, 2020. 

We hope that you follow the recommendations of health officials and stay safe through this unsettling time. 

Questions? Contact NEHPBA.


Info from Napoleon/Christopher R. Lambert & Associates


To HPBExpo Participants: A Covid-19 Update

18 March 2020

This was just sent out from HPBA: 

The health and safety of HPBExpo attendees and exhibitors are of primary importance to us every year, and more so this year. We have been continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation before, during and since HPBExpo in New Orleans. 

We recently learned that there are presumptive cases of COVID-19 involving two members of an HPBExpo exhibitor's staff who were present at the Expo. Out of an abundance of caution, we want to share this information with you so you can take necessary steps to monitor your health and well-being.

We currently do not know whether these individuals had symptoms at the Expo or whether they attended during the COVID-19 incubation period. We are in contact with the relevant health authorities to provide them with this information and to obtain further guidance.

These are challenging and unprecedented times for our community. HPBA will continue to share updated information at HPBExpo.com, we encourage you to check this link for any updates. Our thoughts are with those affected and we wish them a full recovery.

 If you have flu-like symptoms, reach out to your medical provider for advice on next steps. Please refer to the following CDC recommendations [mmsend34.com] for protecting yourself and others.


COVID-19 Impacts on May 15 NSPS Deadline

17 March 2020

HPBA is aware of the impact of COVID-19 closures on retailers, especially those who may still have Step 1 products in stock. As businesses limit operating hours, HPBA will be reaching out to Congress to urge relief due to these exceptional circumstances. It may be possible to get additional time for product sell-through, but we need your immediate help in order to do so.

What You Need to Do

Send an email to Rachel Feinstein (Feinstein@hpba.org) by 3:00 pm EDT Thursday, March 19 with the following information:

  • How many Step 1 stoves you have left
  • Store location(s)
  • How many employees you have
  • What plans/sales have been disrupted

Unless and until any extension is passed, the legal deadline remains May 15, 2020. If you have any question, feel free to contact Northeast HPBA or HPBA.


Operation BBQ Relief Offers Support in Nashville

5 March 2020

Nonprofit responds to 66th disaster since 2011

Relief is making its way to Nashville, Tennessee, in the form of food following deadly tornadoes that struck the state early Tuesday.

Team members from Midwest-based Operation BBQ Relief arrived in Nashville on Wednesday to feed thousands of people affected by the storm.

“As bad as they look, it’s nowhere close to really as bad as it is," Stan Hays, Operation BBQ Relief co-founder, said.

Looking at footage of the aftermath, Hays said he knew volunteers were needed.

“As long as this tornado was on the ground and the number of communities that it affected, the more we started to hear, the more we knew there was going to be a need,” Hays said. “We just didn’t know how much."

More than 20 people have died as a result of the tornadoes, which spanned four counties.

Volunteers set up shop at Nissan Stadium and began serving a community that Hays told 41 Action News looked all too familiar. Responding to the devastation in Nashville marked the organization’s 66th disaster since 2011.

The 2011 tornado that destroyed most of Joplin is what prompted a group of barbecue enthusiasts and competitors turned their hobby into a helpful effort, according to Hays.

“What was going to be three to four days and a few thousand meals turned into 11 days and 120,000 meals from a parking lot," Hays said.

Operation BBQ Relief drove several smokers to Nashville that can cook enough pork to make 2,000 pulled pork sandwiches at one time. Hays said it helps in their efforts to serve more than 20,000 meals a day.

“It also does a little bit more than just, you know, nurses the body, it nurses the soul as well as we’re doing that," Hays said.

Crews plan to be in the Nashville area for seven days, Hays said, but will monitor the situation on the ground and adjust as needed.

Source: kshb.com/image from Hearth & Home


Renew Your NEHPBA Membership Now and Enjoy All the Benefits!

20 February 2020

  • Don't forget, join now and your HPBA Expo Badges are Free. After March 9 your badges over the comp allotment cost extra! So now is the time to join if you are planning on attending HPBA Expo.

Enjoy Cost Savings Benefits on insurance, computers, shipping, credit card processing, business coaching, technical training, marketing, and advertising, saving members hundreds of dollars each year.

  • Complimentary tickets to the HPBExpo.
  • Receive discounts on HPB Education Foundation courses and NFI certifications.
  • Promote Your business to consumers via the Online Member Directory and HPBA Member Store Locator.
  • Benefit from HPBA’s Consumer Campaigns that include traditional and social media.
  • Access vital industry information and consumer use and awareness with HPBA’s online Market Research Reports.
  • Contact your representative via HPBA’s Advocacy Center and stay up to date on legislation and regulation affecting your business with HPBA’s Government Affairs Team.
  • Expand your company’s reach through your HPBA Affiliate. NEHPBA supports the hearth industry at the local, state and regional level with services, educational opportunities, and legislative monitoring.
  • Stay informed with HotNews, monthly newsletter, and Newscast, featuring weekly articles on hearth and outdoor living products.

Want to renew your NEHPBA membership? Click here.


US State Regulators Hear Notes of Caution on Municipal Gas Ban Movement

14 February 2020

John Crouch, HPBA Government Affairs, sent me this article and I found it interesting. It's long, but I've highlighted the sections that I found the most pertinent and interesting. Can common sense prevail? We'll see....

Washington — State regulators were served a strong dose of skepticism Sunday about municipal bans on natural gas hookups in new buildings from parties concerned about the consumer costs and the wisdom of setting key energy policies outside the state utility regulation construct.

Depending on how widespread it becomes, the wave of bans, as well as other incentives for building electrification, could have broad implications for the residential fuel mix and the future of gas distribution infrastructure and demand.

"My experience has been that the city councils aren't necessarily the source of balanced information, just and reasonable cost estimates, all the things that are part of the utility regulatory framework that makes determinations on the capital infrastructure investments," said Timothy Simon, a former California Public Utility Commission member.

Simon, who currently represents several local distribution companies, was among panelists urging caution about the bans during a staff gas subcommittee meeting at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners winter policy summit.

While residential energy use makes up only 7% of California's carbon dioxide emissions, "it's gaining the ire and the attack of city councils across my great state," he said. The "real culprit" in his view is transportation, which makes up 41% of CO2 emissions and is concentrated around big rig diesel trucks. Those trucks "generally don't run through Bel Air and Beverly Hills, he said. "They generally are running by black and brown communities that are in industrial sections near ports of entry and other areas."

Beginning with a ban in Berkeley, California, municipal gas bans have spread through California and appeared in the Boston area and Washington state.

AARP VIEW

Bill Malcolm, senior legislative representative from AARP, said that while his group does not favor one type of fuel over another, it has raised questions in several states about rate impacts for low and moderate income residents.

"I just checked the numbers and natural gas is now at $1.85/MMBtu, and just to put that in perspective, in 2012 it was actually $12/MMBtu," he said. "So where is the new power for the new load going to come from?" he said.

In Connecticut, for instance, AARP filed comments questioning whether incentives to install electric heat pumps over gas furnaces would benefit ratepayers and whether it would drive up peak power demand, he noted.

PUC ROLE

What role state regulators will play in the debate is "the multi-billion question that will most likely be settled by the courts," said Andreas Thanos, a Massachusetts regulator who chairs the NARUC gas staff subcommittee, when reached by email.

While PUCs grant the franchise allowing an LDC to go into a town or city, municipalities are using their bylaws to implement the bans. "So the PUCs will most likely not weigh in on the issue until the courts decide," he said.

Dianne Solomon, a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioner, said she also sees a movement by states to empower their departments of environmental protection to "get into this space, take it out of the hands of the utility regulators and suggest that all projects going forward would have to have some environmental impact."

Several state regulators suggested green groups have had the more effective messaging thus far.

"I have heard a lot from the environmental advocates, Sierra Club and what have you, saying why we should have the natural gas bans," said Greer Gillis, a member of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, adding it was important to get the views aired in the room out into the mainstream.

Judith Schwartz, a former utility commissioner from Palo Alto, where a municipal "reach code" encouraging all electric construction was adopted, contended "while the intentions are good, the reality of what [gas bans] are doing is minimal." During the winter "you have natural gas and imports making up the shortfall of every single hour of the day," she said.

Still, speaking from the audience, David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, said he believed the issue was more complicated than the dialogue Sunday suggested.

"It's pretty clear that in every blue state, we're going to need to deliver a plan" that keeps the increase in temperatures due to climate change under 2 degrees Celsius, he said, with the modeling showing the need to decarbonize electricity, heating and transportation.

"Given that, how do we think about this from a consumer advocate point of view, where money spent on natural gas right now and natural gas infrastructure could very well be stranded?" he said.

spglobal.com


The True Cost of Electrification in New England, New York, and Across the Nation

5 February 2020

We are seeing an increasing number of jurisdictions seriously talking about converting their communities to all-electric homes. These efforts are failing to consider key issues.

1. Many communities reference solar energy as a viable option for homes without discussing the challenges. Solar electricity generation is great during the day, but without widespread electrical storage, taking advantage of that electricity is difficult. We don’t often see mention of the associated cost of not just the solar panels, but also necessary electrical storage.

There must be a discussion about the demand curve of electricity. This curve shows the modest demand for electricity in the day (people getting ready in the morning), the demand drop-off during the middle of the day (people are away from home, but solar is plentiful, weather permitting), and then the steep ramp-up in electricity demand in the evening (people return home, preparing meals, heating homes, etc.). The fluctuations of the demand curve will become steeper with a higher demand for electricity brought on by all-electric homes. Storage options will help mitigate this demand, but they are expensive, and history has shown that most people who opt for solar do not add storage, usually due to high costs.

Solar will be limited in its practicality depending on location and climate. In sunnier areas with clear lines of sight, solar is a good option for supplementing energy. In snow country, poor weather, or limited visibility (trees, nearby buildings, etc.), solar does not produce at optimal levels, if at all.

2. Electricity is not known for its resiliency during winter storms or other emergency situations. Without storage, if the power goes out, you have no power to heat, cook, or bathe if you depend on grid electricity, which the vast majority of consumers do. With natural gas or propane, you have much better resiliency for an energy source. Even if the gas-burning central furnace won’t run during a power outage because it relies on electricity to run the fan, your gas fireplaces, gas stovetops, and gas hot water heaters all continue to operate.

3. Related to the last point, we must think about the expected increased electrical rate costs. If everyone moves to a single fuel source, the demand is higher, which in-turn will very likely increase the cost. The electricity generated during the day via solar has minor value, as electricity is not in demand then. With most utilities having moved, or moving, to a Time Of Use (TOU) billing model for electricity, the highest energy in demand (during the evening) will also be the most expensive.

4. One of the primary reasons to move to all-electric homes is to lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, unless the electricity is coming directly from a renewable resource (solar panels, wind, hydro, etc.), it will be coming from a central power plant. Central power plants have very low efficiency rates – far lower than most residential furnaces or room heaters. On average, the highest efficiency rate for a natural gas-burning power plant is about 43%, with coal, oil, and nuclear efficiencies being even lower (31-33%)1. When you consider that residential gas-burning furnaces operate at a minimum of 80-82% efficiency, and then only as needed, it’s clear that fewer emissions are created from homes heated with natural gas than all-electric homes which draw from central power plants.

There is a bias evident in this effort to promote electrification. We’ve seen articles that say that 45% of carbon dioxide emissions are from electricity and heat in Canada, but if you look closer at the data, we find that only 6% is from homes using natural gas. The rest is from industrial, manufacturing, municipal and commercial. These sources will certainly be affected by changing to electrification, but the impact will be seen and felt differently. Focusing on converting homes to all-electric is an expensive proposition for the homeowner and not necessarily the best choice for the environment.

Studies show that electrification will cause price increases. It could be the increased cost to buy a new home due to new technologies will drive even more people out of the homebuyer market with five-figure increases. But electrification will also raise the cost for an average household by between $750 and $910 per year, just based on normal use of electricity from the grid.

Consumers deserve to be able to make their own decisions on how they heat their homes and cook their meals. Electrification not only removes that consumer choice, but also could shut the door to new and promising technological advances like renewable natural gas.

It’s time for everyone to understand the full cost of electrification.

For more information, contact NEHPBA.

HPBA


Latest Net Zero/Natural Gas Bans Update for New England and New York

23 January 2020

Here is an update on Net Zero/Gas Ban Events around New England and New York. Is Northeast HPBA missing anything? Is there anything we don't know about that is happening in your area that we need to know? Contact us!

Massachusetts:

There are 240 towns out of 311 towns in MA considering this stretch code. 

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS): 

  • Held a public hearing in October, prior to their vote to pass a state-wide Net Zero Stretch Code. 
  • NEHBA got the heads up about this public hearing through a building official in Sutton who is on the BBRS board.
  • NEHPBA Executive Director and President represented with talking points at that public hearing. 
  • There were over 100 people there in support of a Net-Zero Stretch code, including selectman from cities and towns across MA, along with organized protestors.
  • There were 11 board members in-total and 9 were in favor of the NZ stretch code. 
  • NEHPBA succeeded in converting 5 members of the BBRS to our side. 
  • They did NOT vote, and they have PUT OFF the vote indefinitely as a result of our talking points at the public hearing and the letter writing campaign NEHPBA implemented (over 300 letters sent to the board chair). 

Brookline, MA:

  • Selectmen held a Special Town Meeting in November to make the Net Zero code a law in Brookline. (The problem with a special town meeting is that they are not on the regular schedule and no one knows about them, can’t plan for them, which is how these agendas get passed).
  • There were 231 votes in favor and 11 opposed, only 242 people showed up to vote in the ENTIRE CITY OF BROOKLINE. Population 59,000 (one of largest Cities in MA.)
  • Brookline Net-Zero “law” is still at MA Attorney General’s office being reviewed for constitutionality.

Cambridge, MA:

  • Passed a Net-Zero Stretch Code. 
  • That hearing was much more bipartisan in its audience, 50/50 pro vs con regarding the stretch code. 
  • The council had their minds made up before the comments session even started. NEHPBA ED and President were present with talking points at this hearing.
  • Mayor of Cambridge was outgoing, he wanted a legacy. The stretch code passed in Cambridge 5 to 1.
  • Cambridge is expected to formally vote at their next City Council meeting on 1/27.

Somerville, MA:

  • NEHPBA found out on 12/12/19 that the vote was happening on 12/12/19 and that the public comments session was on 12/11. 
  • Somerville held their meeting in the evening on a weeknight and passed a natural gas ban. 

Governor Baker, State of the Commonwealth Address:

  • 1/21/20 State of the Commonwealth Address: Gov Baker committed to net-zero emissions goal by 2050 for Massachusetts.
  • Transportation and Climate Initiative is a cap-and-trade program that could increase gas prices (tax) up to $0.17/gallon to pay for NetZero.  

Senator Ed Markey Green New Deal Town Hall In Acton, MA:

  • Markey (Author of Green New Deal with AOC which was introduced LESS THAN 1 YEAR AGO in US Senate) wants MA to be a solely “Solar Economy.”
  • Over 800 people were present for this event, all in favor. NEHPBA ED, President and 1 dealer member were present.
  • MA Senate will be taking up a “Bold Climate Change Bill” Markey wants it to be “the boldest in the Country.” Wants the rest of the country to model and follow MA.
  • Markey is Pro Net-Zero building codes.
  • “We will bury the fossil fuel industry in the next 10 years” got a huge round of applause.
  • Markey wants “wind, solar and storage so we can say goodbye to Natural Gas.”

Other MA Towns/Communities:

  • NEHPBA is aware of discussions in the following MA towns/cities: Arlington, Ashland, Concord, Lexington, Newton and Wellesley. 
  • The mayors of Worcester, Somerville, New Bedford, and Easthampton have organized a coalition calling on state policymakers to transition MA to meet its heating, transportation, and electricity needs entirely through renewable energy, the group plans to extend invitations into other cities.

Rhode Island:

  • Governor Raimondo signed executive order Executive Order 19-06 in July 2019 to reduce carbon emissions from Heating Sector by April 2020.
  • 1/20/20 Raimondo set 2030 as goal for Rhode Island to be 100% renewable energy.
  • National Grid (electric utility in RI) believes it may be possible that she is pushing renewable generation (solar, wind, storage) and not addressing gas heating and other uses at this time with this order. (She did refer to that Executive Order on 1/20/20).

Vermont:

  • Mayor Miro Weinberger wants Burlington to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030.
  • Wants to reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuel use in the “heating and ground transportation sectors, the two largest greenhouse gas emissions contributors in Burlington and in the state of Vermont.”
  • VT is actually passing legislation to allow their state to be sued if they don’t meet their mandates. 

Connecticut:

  • Gov. Ned Lamont’s signed executive order to reduce carbon emissions and sets the goal for a 100% carbon-free energy market in the state by 2040.

New York:

  • July, the state of New York (state Senate) passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Carbon-free electricity by 2040 and a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
  • Last month, NEHPBA member lost a 350 unit apartment community deal in upstate New York. Each home was to have a gas fireplace. The builder cancelled for fear that they would not be able to pipe in Natural Gas by the time construction began. 

Maine:

  • June 2019, Governor Mills Signs Major Renewable Energy and Climate Change Bills Into Law. Signed legislation to achieve goals of 80% renewable energy by 2030 and emissions reductions of 80% by 2050.

New Hampshire:

  • March 2019, Town of Derry, NH. Mission: To explore and achieve cost effective solutions for reduced energy use and sustainable energy development on town-controlled property, municipal buildings, vehicles, schools, while developing a comprehensive plan to achieve the goal of "Net Zero" compliance by all key Stakeholders by 2025. Additionally, to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and explore other ways to reduce carbon emissions among the Town's residents and businesses.  Lastly, to reduce water usage where feasible. 

What is NEHPBA doing?

    Right now NEHPBA is Networking with: Plumbers Union, VP of Government Affairs and VP of Communications with National Grid, Community Relations Specialist at Eversource, Director at Eversource, President of the Union for Eversource, New England Gas Workers Alliance, PROGANE (Propane Gas of New England), Regional AGA affiliate, Massachusetts Chimney Sweeps, BBRS, numerous building inspectors in MA, NAIOP, National Grid in RI. 

    If there are any introductions you can make in your area, no matter how big or small, please introduce me via email or phone. Contact NEHPBA with any questions. Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!

    Image: Sen Markey Green New Deal Town Hall 


    A Bill to Help Military Spouses Working Out-of-State

    16 January 2020

    New legislation was recently signed into law by President Trump  that may affect some of our NEHPBA/HPBA members. 

    What is it? The Portable Certification of Spouses (PCS) Act

    Why? Over 34 percent of military spouses work in fields that require a state license in order to practice. These spouses are often required to recertify and pay to recertify this license every time they move between states with their spouse. Re-certification has become too long, expensive, detrimental to the careers of spouses, and prohibitive financially to military families who could benefit from two household incomes instead of one. 

    What does it do? The law directs the Secretary of Defense to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to assist with funding of the development of interstate compacts on licensed occupations in order to alleviate the  burden associated with relicensing in such an occupation by spouse of a members of the armed forces in connection with a permanent change of duty station of members to another state.

    Who does it affect? Spouses of military personnel who have an occupational license whose spouse is relocated due to a permanent change of duty station to another state. 

    Full Bill Text: Click here

    Senator Tom Cotton's Press Release: Click here


    How to Claim the $300 Stove Tax Credit for 2019 Purchases

    7 January 2020

    Every year, many taxpayers fail to take advantage of the tax credits for which they're eligible. HPBA works to ensure that the $300 biomass stove tax credit is not forgotten. Rewarding investment in more energy efficient technology can benefit not only individuals, but also can positively impact the air quality of entire communities. The U.S. federal government offers a tax credit to tax-paying homeowners who purchase a wood or pellet stove that is at least 75 percent efficient.

    Congress just included the $300 tax credit in a spending bill covering eligible stoves and boiler purchases retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and for 2020. To be eligible, make sure the stove you bought or will buy is 75% efficient or higher. The biomass stove tax credit has been extended for purchases made before December 31, 2020. You can claim this credit on your tax return if you made a qualifying purchase since December 31, 2017 and up to December 31, 2020.

    How to Claim It:

    • Complete eligible purchase by December 31, 2020.
    • Retain the receipts from your purchase as well as the manufacturer certificate stating the stove qualifies.
    • Claim the credit on your federal income tax form.Biomass Stove Tax Credit Extended to December 31, 2020
    • Complete IRS Form 5695 when you file your taxes. Online service such as Turbotax and Intuit should have Form 5695 integrated into their software sometime in January. 

    Still have Questions? Contact NEHPBA, or for all updates and the latest news, see HPBA’s website here.


    Source: HPBA.org


    National Biomass Stove Tax Credit Has Been Extended!

    20 December 2019

    What products qualify?

    • Anything that qualified for the credit in the past would qualify again. The credit was extended using the same language used for years: must be at least 75 percent efficient.
    • It covers qualifying products purchased since the credit expired, December 31, 2017, and until the current credit expires on December 31, 2020.
    • Remember, this is a retroactive extension, too. If someone purchased a qualifying product in 2018, they could file an amended return. If someone purchased a qualifying product in 2019, including in the next couple weeks, it could be claimed on their 2019 return



    NFI Courses in New Hampshire through NEHPBA

    9 December 2019

    Northeast HPBA is offering NFI courses and exams in January, 2020 in New Hampshire. Gas, Core and Hearth Design Specialists classes and exams will be offered on January 21 and 22 at Northeast Distribution in Exeter, NH for members and non-members. Sign up and find more information at nficertified.org!












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